Everyone remembers Dorothy, having just arrived in Oz and being awed by the beauty, saying “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.” Having been through a literal whirlwind of change, Dorothy found herself in a world very different from where she had been just moments before. Many of us have experienced a similar whirlwind of change – one that strikes at the core of how we do business.
We have all experienced rapid change in the way we work with others, due in part to changes in technology and in the economy. According to Randstad’s 2008 World of Work survey, employee anxiety is on the rise while perceptions of productivity are declining. For many employees, work can be a source of stress in even the best of times. So, if you have been feeling like “we’re not in Kansas anymore,” you’re right.
What are some ways to make the most of change?
Understand that change is inevitable
This isn’t new wisdom, but it is something too many of us still need to hardwire into our thinking. As depicted in the short film Shift Happens, we live in a time of rapid change, but too often continue to resist this change. The term “kaizen” is a Japanese word for continuous improvement and to sustain such improvement requires change. Leaders must be the ones to envision the needed change, model the change behavior, and ensure that change happens in a productive way. Remember the words of Benjamin Disraeli who said
Change is constant; change is inevitable.
Accept the past and move quickly
The Dakota Indians have a common wisdom that says when one is riding a dead horse the best strategy is to dismount. Too often, organizations tend to over-think this dilemma by implementing myriad strategies that ignore the horse. David Garvin and Michael Roberto of the Harvard Business School found that for change to occur in any organization, leaders must persuade others that change is necessary. They suggest that
A persuasion campaign is largely one of differentiation from the past.
Leaders must accept what has already occurred and be positioned to move quickly toward the future. We certainly won’t get very far riding a dead horse!
Ask the tough questions
The best leaders are not necessarily those who know all the answers or who can immediately see the best solutions, but are those who ask the right questions. In his blog, Seth Godin challenges leaders to ask “why?” Leaders of change must be the same way. Too often we fail to see what the future can be. John F. Kennedy once noted
Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
Ask the tough questions and seek insights that others refuse to explore.
Seize the opportunity
We need to embrace change as a mechanism for moving forward. But change means risk, risk requires trust, and in leadership, trust matters. Building a culture of trust in an organization requires courage – the courage to give more than you take. Jimmy Buffett said it best,
You got to bend a little one way or the other, you got to leave your mind open to discover.
Leaders must be careful not to get caught in the trap of believing that old ideas will solve new problems. Discover creative solutions and don’t be afraid to take risk.
Since we are no longer in Kansas, and never will be again, it’s time to step up and accept change. Remember the words of Bruce Barton who said
When you’re through changing, you’re through.
How do you get others to be committed to change? How do you know when it’s time to get off the horse? Do you ask the tough questions? Does fear of risk hold you back? Please share your thoughts. I would love to hear them!
Dr. Hampton Hopkins consults, writes, speaks, and teaches about leadership and organizational development.
He can be reached at www.hopkins-associates.com
Image Sources: i36.tinypic.com, farm2.static.flickr.com